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He's Got Game
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Myles Brand '64

As NCAA president, Brand says he wants to “make sure the Divisions II and III are strengthened so that we are providing the optimum experience for as many student-athletes as possible.”

Brand-New Day in College Athletics

The head of the NCAA’s Executive Committee, University of Tulsa President Robert Lawless, called Brand’s appointment last fall the beginning of a “new day” in college athletics.

Brand takes office during a challenging time for college athletics. An article about Brand’s appointment in the Oct. 18, 2002, issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education noted: “NCAA members are dealing with financial pressures on their athletic departments and academic failures among star athletes. Building consensus on contentious issues has been impossible thus far, given the association’s sprawling franchise of universities of all shapes, sizes, and missions.”

Brand is tackling the job by defining a dual mission: To complete, implement, and expand upon the significant reforms already begun by the NCAA and to serve as the nation’s top advocate for the value of intercollegiate athletics and for the students involved.

Brand cites the 1991 report from the Knight Commission, sponsored by the Knight Foundation [no relation to Bobby], as an important guide for his work. “[The report] said, among other things, that university presidents should have more control over athletics,” says Brand. “There has been slow and steady movement in that direction, but more needs to be done. Progress has also been made on eligibility issues for players and on other academic issues affecting student-athletes, and this work must continue. The NCAA has done a very good job to date, especially in establishing and enforcing its rules, and it will be up to me to advance the progress.”

As for the second mission, advocacy, Brand said that he relishes the job of preaching the gospel of intercollegiate athletics as a critical part of the higher education experience when fully integrated into the academic mission. “I want to highlight the integrity involved in intercollegiate sports and enable a healthy atmosphere,” he says.

Brand also will seek to improve fan access in order to bring more college athletics into the nation’s living rooms. “Watching the [Indiana University] Hoosiers play basketball and watching the [NBA] Pacers play basketball are phenomenally different experiences,” he explains. “With the Hoosiers, you see the youth and the hard work and the school spirit behind the cream and crimson. Pro sports are a cross between business and entertainment, which is fine for them, but not for us. I want to spotlight what’s truly special in intercollegiate athletics, and maintain its unique flavor.”

Brand says it’s “an absolute fallacy” that college sports have become a big business, wielding immense economic power through the major revenues they provide. “Only about 40 colleges—or 15 percent of the total number of colleges that play Division I-A intercollegiate sports—actually break even or make money. The smaller schools, about 1,000 of them, do not bring in revenue. They provide their students with academic opportunities and that itself is important.”

“Pro sports are a cross between business and entertainment, which is fine for them, but not for us. I want to spotlight what’s truly special in intercollegiate athletics, and maintain its unique flavor.”

Brand also says it’s a myth that donors give to colleges based on the schools’ success in sports. “At Indiana, we raised $310 million last year, more than any other public university in the country. Only about $4 million of that came through athletics—and giving did not decrease after the Bobby Knight situation. Large donors give to make a real difference in higher learning. They give to an academic vision.”

As NCAA president, Brand says he will deal with the issues of Division I sports, but “I want to make sure that Divisions II and III are strengthened so that we are providing the optimum experience for as many student-athletes as possible,” he says.

Level Playing Field

Gender and minority equity in college sports also will be a focus for Brand during his tenure at the NCAA. “Diversity is critically important,” he stresses. “Great strides have been made. We have more diverse players on the field now, but we also need to concentrate on the quality of their opportunities and their potential for success.”

Brand hired Indiana’s first African American head coach, Mike Davis, to replace Bobby Knight. “In basketball, we’ve made good strides in the hiring of black coaches, but not in football.”

As the Bush administration reviews Title IX, the federal act that ensures equity for women in school athletics, Brand remains firmly in support of the law because he believes it has “made a tremendous difference in increasing opportunities for women in intercollegiate athletics.”

“People criticize it and blame it for a number of problems, but I think that those problems may have more to do with budget decisions made on the ground in athletics departments,” Brand says. “There is no excuse for leaving behind half of the talent pool—in anything,” he says, pointing out that women now are 53 percent of today’s college students outside of technological institutions—and the number will soon grow higher.

He also points to the increasing number of women college presidents as a factor in the changing face of college athletics. In fact, he made diversity a top agenda item at both Oregon and Indiana. Of the seven chancellors who reported to him at IU, four were women.

But Brand was not always such a strong proponent of gender equity. As an editor of the student publication the Rensselaer Engineer in the early 1960s, he wrote an editorial questioning the wisdom of admitting women to RPI.

“That relic,” as he calls it now, was discovered by the Engineer’s staff and reprinted in 1988 while he was provost at Ohio State. When the unearthed editorial came to his attention, he wrote, in a commentary piece in Rensselaer magazine, “How embarrassing! I thought it was long forgotten—I now see how short-sighted and parochial this position was.”

Brand remembers Rensselaer as the early training ground for his national role. “The basic skills I obtained at Rensselaer, whether it be the solid grounding in scientific knowledge and in philosophy, or the discipline and integrity required, have become a part of my daily life and continue to serve me well.”

“In this world of high-tech communications, the bully pulpit is still the most effective tool for change if you are able to argue logically and forcefully for your point of view,” he concludes. “Rensselaer taught me to do that well.”

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Rensselaer Magazine: March 2003
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